Friday, July 23, 2021

Tony Williams interview

A nice 1983 interview with Tony Williams in Downbeat magazine, by Paul De Barros. Shared on Twitter by Richard Scheinin of SFJazz.

Tony talked a little bit about his time studying with Alan Dawson: 

What I basically got from Alan was clarity. He had a lot of independence, but so did other people. I get this question about independence a lot, even from drummers, but they can’t even be clear about their ideas. I mean you hear them play something, and you say, “What was it that he played?” Or if they hear themselves back on tape, they say they thought they played good but that it didn’t sound like that. So the idea is that when you play something for it to sound like what you intended, not to have a “maybe” kind of sound. So that’s what I got from Alan, the idea that you have to play clearly.

And there was an exchange about playing jazz vs. other kinds of music: 

[J]ust because it’s jazz, doesn’t mean it’s going to be more complex. I’ve played with different people in jazz where it was just what you’d call very sweet music. No type of music, just because it’s a certain type of music, is all good. A lot of rock ’n’ roll is not happening. And a lot of so-called jazz and the people who play it are not happening. Complexity is not the attraction for me, anyway—it’s the feeling of the music, the feeling generated on the bandstand. So playing in a heavy rock situation can be as satisfying as anything else. If I’m playing just a backbeat with an electric bass and a guitar when it comes together, it’s really a great feeling.

DB: Sometimes so much of that music seems very insensitive.

TW: It depends on what you’re saying the Ramones are supposed to be sensitive to. Just because it’s jazz doesn’t mean it’s going to be sensitive. You’re trying to evoke a whole other type of feeling with the Ramones. When I drive through different cities and I look up in the Airport Hilton and I see the sign that says, “Tonight in the lounge, ‘live jazz’”—I mean, what the hell does that even mean? I’m not saying everybody’s like this, but I can see a tinge of people saying, “This is the only way it was in 1950, and we’re going to keep it that way, whether the music is vital or not, whether or not what we end up playing sounds filed with cobwebs.” When John Coltrane was alive, there were all kinds of people who put him down. But these same people will now raise his name as some sort of banner to wave in people’s faces to say, “How come you’re not like this?” These same people. That’s hypocrisy, and I find it very tedious.

No comments: